How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?
I developed a passion for music at a very young age. My mom loves to remind me of how I used to plunk out melodies of TV show theme songs by ear on my toy keyboard as a toddler, which prompted her to put me in piano lessons at age six. I started writing my first songs a few years later, and really started taking it seriously in middle school and high school. Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family (both of my parents have owned an advertising agency together for 30+ years, and still going strong!), I developed an interest in the business and marketing side of things as well.
I got into Berklee College of Music on a songwriting scholarship and majored in music business with a focus on entrepreneurship. I was involved in many different clubs and activities at Berklee, but looking back, a big piece of the puzzle for how my career unfolded was serving as editor-in-chief of the college’s online newspaper, The Berklee Groove, for two and a half years. Between that student employment job, three music business internships in New York City, and launching a music tech startup called SongwriterLink by the time I graduated, it put me in a great position to be offered my current position as the managing editor at Sonicbids, where I handle all things editorial and content marketing strategy.
My ultimate goal has always been to intertwine my passion for both the creative and business sides of the music industry in my life, because I don’t think I would be happy with just one or the other.
Tell us about SongwriterLink and what made you start it?
SongwriterLink is a songwriting collaboration website I created that I like to describe as a match.com for finding co-writers. You get matched up with songwriters who would be a great fit for you based on an algorithm, and you can also proactively seek out exactly the kind of songwriter you’re looking to collaborate with using advanced search filters on the site.
The idea for SongwriterLink came to me during my first semester as a student at Berklee, and I spent nearly my entire college career building it and making it a reality. Like many business ideas, it really arose out of a personal problem that no one seemed to have a good solution to: I was looking for new people to co-write with, and I couldn’t believe that an online tool like this didn’t already exist! There were only messy, sketchy collaboration forums, which obviously don’t provide any indication as to whether someone would actually be a good collaborator for you. I wanted to create a legitimate community of songwriters and make it super easy to find the ones who share your same goals and passion, whether you’re co-writing just as a hobby or you’re looking for a major label artist to cut your song.
Working for an online publication, how do you think blogs have affected the business?
Blogs have had an enormous effect on the music business. They’ve been a boon for music discovery and helping niche artists and fans find each other, but at the same time, it means that everyone with an internet connection and an opinion can call themselves “music bloggers,” so it’s gotten really saturated. But, as with anything, the cream always rises to the top – and that goes for both musicians and the bloggers writing about them.
How important is a band’s pitch and what makes a good one?
The pitch is everything. When it comes to getting press and getting to the next level in your career, the pitch is really what makes or breaks you. Tons of bands make great music, but the ones with the most interesting stories are the ones that cut through the noise, because they’ve managed to really tap into and capitalize on what it is that sets them apart.
In today’s music business, how do you think a band or artist can best get through or above the noise?
It’s tough, because there’s no one right answer, and everyone’s path is unique – so what works for one band may not work for another. Today more than ever, though, I think it’s really about finding your niche, no matter how big or small that may be. I’m a big fan of Seth Godin, so I’d recommend that all musicians read up on what he has to say about tribes and being a “purple cow” to truly grasp what it takes to build a loyal fanbase and stand out.
What are the most important social sites that bands should be a part of?
It’s pretty commonly accepted that, at a bare minimum, bands should be on the “big three” – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – since those are where most people will look for you first, and they typically come up on the first page of Google search results. However, there are so many other social media channels to consider adding into the mix, and that’s where things can get tricky.
Basically, you want to be where your fans (and potential fans) are, but you don’t want to spread yourself too thin and have lots of inactive profiles all over the place, because that can leave a worse impression than not being on those sites at all. I’m an advocate of choosing a small handful of social media sites that you know you can maintain well and make sense for your band’s brand, and master those before trying to throw a bunch of other new sites into the mix.
What should a musician not do while trying to succeed in this business?
I think the biggest thing musicians should not do is wait for someone to choose them for some sort of “big break.” You need to choose yourself. And, ironically enough, when you choose yourself, that’s when other people start paying attention.
Working for Sonicbids, you’re focused a lot on the PR and online side of things. Realistically, what percentage of an artist’s career is in the marketing and the online presence, and what percentage is in the music and its performance live… where’s the money?
Both aspects are completely necessary and codependent – I can’t give percentages, because I feel like they’re both 100 percent! You could have the best music in the world, but if you don’t know how to market yourself, no one’s ever going to know. And you could know every marketing trick in the book, but if your music and live show (aka your product) aren’t undeniably remarkable, no one is going to remark (i.e., tell their friends, write a review, go to your show, join your email list, follow you on Twitter), no matter how much marketing effort you put behind it.
What are some of the changes that you foresee in the music business?
I know a lot of people are freaking out about the future of the music business, but I think this is actually a really exciting transition to be living through, and I see room for a lot of opportunity over the next few years.
Music as a business really hasn’t been around for all that long, and the creation, discovery, and consumption of it has always been a reflection of the technology and culture of the time. Technology has been moving at an incredibly fast pace recently, and that makes it very difficult to stay on top of (and try to monetize) the trends and predict what’s going to come next. And unpredictability, as we all know, generates fear among the masses.
But what I can tell you is that music is never going away. It’s just that the way we create, discover, and consume it is going to continue to evolve. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what unfolds.
What are some other DIY musician publications that you respect and look up to?
Hypebot, Performer Magazine, CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog, and Cyber PR’s blog are all great reads for DIY musicians! And while not specifically targeted at DIY musicians, I would highly recommend subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog and Derek Sivers’ blog. Their words have had a significant impact on the way I approach marketing, business, music, and even life.